Our Foreigners - A Chronicle of Americans in the Making
by Samuel P. Orth
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1920, by Yale University Press




















Long before men awoke to the vision of America, the Old World was the scene of many stupendous migrations. One after another, the Goths, the Huns, the Saracens, the Turks, and the Tatars, by the sheer tidal force of their numbers threatened to engulf the ancient and medieval civilization of Europe. But neither in the motives prompting them nor in the effect they produced, nor yet in the magnitude of their numbers, will such migrations bear comparison with the great exodus of European peoples which in the course of three centuries has made the United States of America. That movement of races—first across the sea and then across the land to yet another sea, which set in with the English occupation of Virginia in 1607 and which has continued from that day to this an almost ceaseless stream of millions of human beings seeking in the New World what was denied them in the Old—has no parallel in history.

It was not until the seventeenth century that the door of the wilderness of North America was opened by Englishmen; but, if we are interested in the circumstances and ideas which turned Englishmen thither, we must look back into the wonderful sixteenth century—and even into the fifteenth, for; it was only five or six years after the great Christopher's discovery, that the Cabots, John and Sebastian, raised the Cross of St. George on the North American coast. Two generations later, when the New World was pouring its treasure into the lap of Spain and when all England was pulsating with the new and noble life of the Elizabethan Age, the sea captains of the Great Queen challenged the Spanish monarch, defeated his Great Armada, and unfurled the English flag, symbol of a changing era, in every sea.

The political and economic thought of the sixteenth century was conducive to imperial expansion. The feudal fragments of kingdoms were being fused into a true nationalism. It was the day of the mercantilists, when gold and silver were given a grotesquely exaggerated place in the national economy and self-sufficiency was deemed to be the goal of every great nation. Freed from the restraint of rivals, the nation sought to produce its own raw material, control its own trade, and carry its own goods in its own ships to its own markets. This economic doctrine appealed with peculiar force to the people of England. England was very far from being self-sustaining. She was obliged to import salt, sugar, dried fruits, wines, silks, cotton, potash, naval stores, and many other necessary commodities. Even of the fish which formed a staple food on the English workman's table, two-thirds of the supply was purchased from the Dutch. Moreover, wherever English traders sought to take the products of English industry, mostly woolen goods, they were met by handicaps—tariffs, Sound dues, monopolies, exclusions, retaliations, and even persecutions.

So England was eager to expand under her own flag. With the fresh courage and buoyancy of youth she fitted out ships and sent forth expeditions. And while she shared with the rest of the Europeans the vision of India and the Orient, her "gentlemen adventurers" were not long in seeing the possibilities that lay concealed beyond the inviting harbors, the navigable rivers, and the forest-covered valleys of North America. With a willing heart they believed their quaint chronicler, Richard Hakluyt, when he declared that America could bring "as great a profit to the Realme of England as the Indes to the King of Spain," that "golde, silver, copper, leade and perales in aboundaunce" had been found there: also "precious stones, as turquoises and emauraldes; spices and drugges; silke worms fairer than ours in Europe; white and red cotton; infinite multitude of all kind of fowles; excellent vines in many places for wines; the soyle apte to beare olyves for oyle; all kinds of fruites; all kindes of odoriferous trees and date trees, cypresses, and cedars; and in New-founde-lande aboundaunce of pines and firr trees to make mastes and deale boards, pitch, tar, rosen; hempe for cables and cordage; and upp within the Graunde Baye excedinge quantitie of all kinde of precious furres." Such a catalogue of resources led him to conclude that "all the commodities of our olde decayed and daungerous trades in all Europe, Africa and Asia haunted by us, may in short space and for little or nothinge, in a manner be had in that part of America which lieth between 30 and 60 degrees of northerly latitude."

Even after repeated expeditions had discounted the exuberant optimism of this description, the Englishmen's faith did not wane. While for many years there lurked in the mind of the Londoner, the hope that some of the products of the Levant might be raised in the fertile valleys of Virginia, the practical English temperament none the less began promptly to appease itself with the products of the vast forests, the masts, the tar and pitch, the furs; with the fish from the coast waters, the abundant cod, herring, and mackerel; nor was it many years before tobacco, indigo, sugar, cotton, maize, and other commodities brought to the merchants of England a great American commerce.

The first attempts to found colonies in the country by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh were pitiable failures. But the settlement on the James in 1607 marked the beginning of a nation. What sort of nation? What race of people? Sir Walter Raleigh, with true English tenacity, had said after learning of the collapse of his own colony, "I shall yet live to see it an English nation." The new nation certainly was English in its foundation, whatever may be said of its superstructure. Virginia, New England, Maryland, the Carolinas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia were begun by Englishmen; and New England, Virginia, and Maryland remained almost entirely English throughout the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth. These colonies reproduced, in so far as their strange and wild surroundings permitted, the towns, the estates, and the homes of Englishmen of that day. They were organized and governed by Englishmen under English customs and laws; and the Englishman's constitutional liberties were their boast until the colonists wrote these rights and privileges into a constitution of their own. "Foreigners" began early to straggle into the colonies. But not until the eighteenth century was well under way did they come in appreciable numbers, and even then the great bulk of these non-English newcomers were from the British Isles—of Welsh, Scotch, Irish, and Scotch-Irish extraction.

These colonies took root at a time when profound social and religious changes were occurring in England. Churchmen and dissenters were at war with each other; autocracy was struggling to survive the representative system; and agrarianism was contending with a newly created capitalism for economic supremacy. The old order was changing. In vain were attempts made to stay progress by labor laws and poor laws and corn laws. The laws rather served to fill the highways with vagrants, vagabonds, mendicants, beggars, and worse. There was a general belief that the country was overpopulated. For the restive, the discontented, the ambitious, as well as for the undesirable surplus, the new colonies across the Atlantic provided a welcome outlet.

To the southern plantations were lured those to whom land-owning offered not only a means of livelihood but social distinction. As word was brought back of the prosperity of the great estates and of the limitless areas awaiting cultivation, it tempted in substantial numbers those who were dissatisfied with their lot: the yeoman who saw no escape from the limitations of his class, either for himself or for his children; the younger son who disdained trade but was too poor to keep up family pretensions; professional men, lawyers, and doctors, even clergymen, who were ambitious to become landed gentlemen; all these felt the irresistible call of the New World.

The northern colonies were, on the other hand, settled by townfolk, by that sturdy middle class which had wedged its way socially between the aristocracy and the peasantry, which asserted itself politically in the Cromwellian Commonwealth and later became the industrial master of trade and manufacture. These hard-headed dissenters founded New England. They built towns and almost immediately developed a profitable trade and manufacture. With a goodly sprinkling of university men among them, they soon had a college of their own. Indeed, Harvard graduated its first class as early as 1642.

Supplementing these pioneers, came mechanics and artisans eager to better their condition. Of the serving class, only a few came willingly. These were the "free-willers" or "redemptioners," who sold their services usually for a term of five years to pay for their passage money. But the great mass of unskilled labor necessary to clear the forests and do the other hard work so plentiful in a pioneer land came to America under duress. Kidnaping or "spiriting" achieved the perfection of a fine art under the second Charles. Boys and girls of the poorer classes, those wretched waifs who thronged the streets of London and other towns, were hustled on board ships and virtually sold into slavery for a term of years. It is said that in 1670 alone ten thousand persons were thus kidnaped; and one kidnaper testified in 1671 that he had sent five hundred persons a year to the colonies for twelve years and another that he had sent 840 in one year.

Transportation of the idle poor was another common source for providing servants. In 1663 an act was passed by Parliament empowering Justices of the Peace to send rogues, vagrants, and "sturdy beggars" to the colonies. These men belonged to the class of the unfortunate rather than the vicious and were the product of a passing state of society, though criminals also were deported. Virginia and other colonies vigorously protested against this practice, but their protests were ignored by the Crown. When, however, it is recalled that in those years the list of capital offenses was appalling in length, that the larceny of a few shillings was punishable by death, that many of the victims were deported because of religious differences and political offenses, then the stigma of crime is erased. And one does not wonder that some of these transported persons rose to places of distinction and honor in the colonies and that many of them became respected citizens. Maryland, indeed, recruited her schoolmasters from among their ranks.

Indentured service was an institution of that time, as was slavery. The lot of the indentured servant was not ordinarily a hard one. Here and there masters were cruel and inhuman. But in a new country where hands were so few and work so abundant, it was wisdom to be tolerant and humane. Servants who had worked out their time usually became tenants or freeholders, often moving to other colonies and later to the interior beyond the "fall line," where they became pioneers in their turn.

The most important and influential influx of non-English stock into the colonies was the copious stream of Scotch-Irish. Frontier life was not a new experience to these hardy and remarkable people. Ulster, when they migrated thither from Scotland in the early part of the seventeenth century, was a wild moorland, and the Irish were more than unfriendly neighbors. Yet these transplanted Scotch changed the fens and mires into fields and gardens; in three generations they had built flourishing towns and were doing a thriving manufacture in linens and woolens. Then England, in her mercantilist blindness, began to pass legislation that aimed to cut off these fabrics from English competition. Soon thousands of Ulster artisans were out of work. Nor was their religion immune from English attack, for these Ulstermen were Presbyterians. These civil, religious, and economic persecutions thereupon drove to America an ethnic strain that has had an influence upon the character of the nation far out of proportion to its relative numbers. In the long list of leaders in American politics and enterprise and in every branch of learning, Scotch-Irish names are common.

There had been some trade between Ulster and the colonies, and a few Ulstermen had settled on the eastern shore of Maryland and in Virginia before the close of the seventeenth century. Between 1714 and 1720, fifty-four ships arrived in Boston with immigrants from Ireland. They were carefully scrutinized by the Puritan exclusionists. Cotton Mather wrote in his diary on August 7, 1718: "But what shall be done for the great number of people that are transporting themselves thither from ye North of Ireland?" And John Winthrop, speaking of twenty ministers and their congregations that were expected the same year, said, "I wish their coming so over do not prove fatall in the End." They were not welcome, and had, evidently, no intention of burdening the towns. Most of them promptly moved on beyond the New England settlements.

The great mass of Scotch-Irish, however, came to Pennsylvania, and in such large numbers that James Logan, the Secretary of the Province, wrote to the Proprietors in 1729: "It looks as if Ireland is to send all its inhabitants hither, for last week not less than six ships arrived, and every day two or three arrive also."[1] These colonists did not remain in the towns but, true to their traditions, pushed on to the frontier. They found their way over the mountain trails into the western part of the colony; they pushed southward along the fertile plateaus that terrace the Blue Ridge Mountains and offer a natural highway to the South; into Virginia, where they possessed themselves of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley; into Maryland and the Carolinas; until the whole western frontier, from Georgia to New York and from Massachusetts to Maine, was the skirmish line of the Scotch-Irish taking possession of the wilderness.

The rebellions of the Pretenders in Scotland in 1715 and 1745 and the subsequent break-up of the clan system produced a considerable migration to the colonies from both the Highlands and the Lowlands. These new colonists settled largely in the Carolinas and in Maryland. The political prisoners, of whom there were many in consequence of the rebellions, were sold into service, usually for a term of fourteen years. In Pennsylvania the Welsh founded a number of settlements in the neighborhood of Philadelphia. There were Irish servants in all the colonies and in Maryland many Irish Catholics joined their fellow Catholics from England.

In 1683 a group of religious refugees from the Rhineland founded Germantown, near Philadelphia. Soon other German communities were started in the neighboring counties. Chief among these German sectarians were the Mennonites, frequently called the German Quakers, so nearly did their religious peculiarities match those of the followers of Penn; the Dunkers, a Baptist sect, who seem to have come from Germany boot and baggage, leaving not one of their number behind; and the Moravians, whose missionary zeal and gentle demeanor have made them beloved in many lands. The peculiar religious devotions of the sectarians still left them time to cultivate their inclination for literature and music. There were a few distinguished scholars among them and some of the finest examples of early American books bear the imprint of their presses.

This modest beginning of the German invasion was soon followed by more imposing additions. The repeated strategic devastations of the Rhenish Palatinate during the French and Spanish wars reduced the peasantry to beggary, and the medieval social stratification of Germany reduced them to virtual serfdom, from which America offered emancipation. Queen Anne invited the harassed peasants of this region to come to England, whence they could be transferred to America. Over thirty thousand took advantage of the opportunity in the years 1708 and 1709.[2] Some of them found occupation in England and others in Ireland, but the majority migrated, some to New York, where they settled in the Mohawk Valley, others to the Carolinas, but far more to Pennsylvania, where, with an instinct born of generations of contact with the soil, they sought out the most promising areas in the limestone valleys of the eastern part of that colony, cleared the land, built their solid homes and ample barns, and clung to their language, customs, and religion so tenaciously that to this day their descendants are called "Pennsylvania Dutch."

After 1717 multitudes of German peasants were lured to America by unscrupulous agents called "new-landers" or "soul-stealers," who, for a commission paid by the shipmaster, lured the peasant to sell his belongings, scrape together or borrow what he could, and migrate. The agents and captains then saw to it that few arrived in Philadelphia out of debt. As a result the immigrants were sold to "soul-drivers," who took them to the interior and indentured them to farmers, usually of their own race. These redemptioners, as they were called, served from three to five years and generally received fifty acres of land at the expiration of their service.

On the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685 French Protestants fled in vast numbers to England and to Holland. Thence many of them found their way to America, but very few came hither directly from France. South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were favored by those noble refugees, who included in their numbers not only skilled artisans and successful merchants but distinguished scholars and professional men in whose veins flowed some of the best blood of France. They readily identified themselves with the industries and aspirations of the colonies and at once became leaders in the professional and business life in their communities. In Boston, in Charleston, in New York, and in other commercial centers, the names of streets, squares, and public buildings attest their prominence in trade and politics. Few names are more illustrious than those of Paul Revere, Peter Faneuil, and James Bowdoin of Massachusetts; John Jay, Nicholas Bayard, Stephen DeLancey of New York; Elias Boudinot of New Jersey; Henry Laurens and Francis Marion of South Carolina. Like the Scotch-Irish, these French Protestants and their descendants have distinguished themselves for their capacity for leadership.

The Jews came early to New York, and as far back as 1691 they had a synagogue in Manhattan. The civil disabilities then so common in Europe were not enforced against them in America, except that they could not vote for members of the legislature. As that body itself declared in 1737, the Jews did not possess the parliamentary franchise in England, and no special act had endowed them with this right in the colonies. The earliest representatives of this race in America came to New Amsterdam with the Dutch and were nearly all Spanish and Portuguese Jews, who had found refuge in Holland after their wholesale expulsion from the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Rhode Island, too, and Pennsylvania had a substantial Jewish population. The Jews settled characteristically in the towns and soon became a factor in commercial enterprise. It is to be noted that they contributed liberally to the patriot cause in the Revolution.

While the ships bearing these many different stocks were sailing westward, England did not gain possession of the whole Atlantic seaboard without contest. The Dutch came to Manhattan in 1623 and for fifty years held sway over the imperial valley of the Hudson. It was a brief interval, as history goes, but it was long enough to stamp upon the town of Manhattan the cosmopolitan character it has ever since maintained. Into its liberal and congenial atmosphere were drawn Jews, Moravians, and Anabaptists; Scotch Presbyterians and English Nonconformists; Waldenses from Piedmont and Huguenots from France. The same spirit that made Holland the lenient host to political and religious refugees from every land in that restive age characterized her colony and laid the foundations of the great city of today. England had to wrest from the Dutch their ascendancy in New Netherland, where they split in twain the great English colonies of New England and of the South and controlled the magnificent harbor at the mouth of the Hudson, which has since become the water gate of the nation.

While the English were thus engaged in establishing themselves on the coast, the French girt them in by a strategic circle of forts and trading posts reaching from Acadia, up the St. Lawrence, around the Great Lakes, and down the valley of the Mississippi, with outposts on the Ohio and other important confluents. When, after the final struggle between France and Britain for world empire, France retired from the North American continent, she left to England all her possessions east of the Mississippi, with the exception of a few insignificant islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the West Indies; and to Spain she ceded New Orleans and her vast claims beyond the great river.

Thus from the first, the lure of the New World beckoned to many races, and to every condition of men. By the time that England's dominion spread over half the northern continent, her colonies were no longer merely English. They were the most cosmopolitan areas in the world. A few European cities had at times been cities of refuge, but New York and Philadelphia were more than mere temporary shelters to every creed. Nowhere else could so many tongues be heard as in a stroll down Broadway to the Battery. No European commonwealths embraced in their citizenry one-half the ethnic diversity of the Carolinas or of Pennsylvania. And within the wide range of his American domains, the English King could point to one spot or another and say: "Here the Spaniards have built a chaste and beautiful mission; here the French have founded a noble city; here my stubborn Roundheads have planted a whole nest of commonwealths; here my Dutch neighbors thought they stole a march on me, but I forestalled them; this valley is filled with Germans, and that plateau is covered with Scotch-Irish, while the Swedes have taken possession of all this region." And with a proud gesture he could add, "But everywhere they read their laws in the King's English and acknowledge my sovereignty."

Against the shifting background of history these many races of diverse origin played their individual parts, each contributing its essential characteristics to the growing complex of a new order of society in America. So on this stage, broad as the western world, we see these men of different strains subduing a wilderness and welding its diverse parts into a great nation, stretching out the eager hand of exploration for yet more land, bringing with arduous toil the ample gifts of sea and forest to the townsfolk, hewing out homesteads in the savage wilderness, laboring faithfully at forge and shipyard and loom, bartering in the market place, putting the fear of God into their children and the fear of their own strong right arm into him whosoever sought to oppress them, be he Red Man with his tomahawk or English King with his Stamp Act.


[Footnote 1: In 1773 and 1774 over thirty thousand came. In the latter year Benjamin Franklin estimated the population of Pennsylvania at 350,000, of which number one-third was thought to be Scotch-Irish. John Fiske states that half a million, all told, arrived in the colonies before 1776, "making not less than one-sixth part of our population at the time of the Revolution."]

[Footnote 2: John Fiske: The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, vol. II, p. 351.]



In the history of a word we may frequently find a fragment, sometimes a large section, of universal history. This is exemplified in the term American, a name which, in the phrase of George Washington, "must always exalt the pride of patriotism" and which today is proudly borne by a hundred million people. There is no obscurity about the origin of the name America. It was suggested for the New World in 1507 by Martin Waldseemueller, a German geographer at the French college of Saint-Die. In that year this savant printed a tract, with a map of the world or mappemonde, recognizing the dubious claims of discovery set up by Amerigo Vespucci and naming the new continent after him. At first applied only to South America, the name was afterwards extended to mean the northern continent as well; and in time the whole New World, from the Frozen Ocean to the Land of Fire, came to be called America.

Inevitably the people who achieved a preponderating influence in the new continent came to be called Americans. Today the name American everywhere signifies belonging to the United States, and a citizen of that country is called an American. This unquestionably is geographically anomalous, for the neighbors of the United States, both north and south, may claim an equal share in the term. Ethnically, the only real Americans are the Indian descendants of the aboriginal races. But it is futile to combat universal usage: the World War has clinched the name upon the inhabitants of the United States. The American army, the American navy, American physicians and nurses, American food and clothing—these are phrases with a definite geographical and ethnic meaning which neither academic ingenuity nor race rivalry can erase from the memory of mankind.

This chapter, however, is to discuss the American stock, and it is necessary to look farther back than mere citizenship; for there are millions of American citizens of foreign birth or parentage who, though they are Americans, are clearly not of any American stock.

At the time of the Revolution there was a definite American population, knit together by over two centuries of toil in the hard school of frontier life, inspired by common political purposes, speaking one language, worshiping one God in divers manners, acknowledging one sovereignty, and complying with the mandates of one common law. Through their common experience in subduing the wilderness and in wresting their independence from an obstinate and stupid monarch, the English colonies became a nation. Though they did not fulfill Raleigh's hope and become an English nation, they were much more English than non-English, and these Revolutionary Americans may be called today, without abuse of the term, the original American stock. Though they were a blend of various races, a cosmopolitan admixture of ethnic strains, they were not more varied than the original admixture of blood now called English.

We may, then, properly begin our survey of the racial elements in the United States by a brief scrutiny of this American stock, the parent stem of the American people, the great trunk, whose roots have penetrated deep into the human experience of the past and whose branches have pushed upward and outward until they spread over a whole continent.

The first census of the United States was taken in 1790. More than a hundred years later, in 1909, the Census Bureau published A Century of Population Growth in which an attempt was made to ascertain the nationality of those who comprised the population at the taking of the first census. In that census no questions of nativity were asked. This omission is in itself significant of the homogeneity of the population at that time. The only available data, therefore, upon which such a calculation could be made were the surnames of the heads of families preserved in the schedules. A careful analysis of the list disclosed a surprisingly large number of names ostensibly English or British. Fashions in names have changed since then, and many that were so curious, simple, or fantastically compounded as to be later deemed undignified have undergone change or disappeared.[3]

Upon this basis the nationality of the white population was distributed among the States in accordance with Table A printed on pages 26-27. Three of the original States are not represented in this table: New Jersey, Delaware, and Georgia. The schedules of the First Census for those States were not preserved. The two new States of Kentucky and Tennessee are also missing from the list. Estimates, however, have been made for these missing States.

For Delaware, the schedules of the Second Census, 1800, survived. As there was little growth and very little change in the composition of the population during this decade, the Census Bureau used the later figures as a basis for calculating the population in 1790. Of three of the missing Southern States the report says: "The composition of the white population of Georgia, Kentucky, and of the district subsequently erected into the State of Tennessee is also unknown; but in view of the fact that Georgia was a distinctly English colony, and that Tennessee and Kentucky were settled largely from Virginia and North Carolina, the application of the North Carolina proportions to the white population of these three results in what is doubtless an approximation of the actual distribution."



Note: The first column under each State gives the number of persons; the second, the percentage. The asterisk indicates less than one-tenth of one per cent.

- - - NATIONALITY MAINE NEW HAMPSHIRE VERMONT MASSACHUSETTS - - - - - - - All Nationalities 96,107 100.0 141,112 100.0 85,072 100.0 373,187 100.0 English 89,515 93.1 132,726 94.1 81,149 95.4 354,528 95.0 Scotch 4,154 4.3 6,648 4.7 2,562 3.0 13,435 3.6 Irish 1,334 1.4 1,346 1.0 597 0.7 3,732 1.0 Dutch 279 0.3 153 0.1 428 0.5 373 0.1 French 115 0.1 142 0.1 153 0.2 746 0.2 German 436 0.5 35 * 75 * Hebrew 44 * 67 * All others 230 0.2 97 0.1 148 0.2 231 * - - - - - - -

- - NATIONALITY RHODE ISLAND CONNECTICUT NEW YORK PENNSYLVANIA - - - - - - All Nationalities 64,670 100.0 232,236 100.0 314,366 100.0 423,373 100.0 English 62,079 96.0 223,437 96.2 245,901 78.2 249,656 59.0 Scotch 1,976 3.1 6,425 2.8 10,034 3.2 49,567 11.7 Irish 459 0.7 1,589 0.7 2,525 0.8 8,614 2.0 Dutch 19 * 258 0.1 50,600 16.1 2,623 0.6 French 88 0.1 512 0.2 2,424 0.8 2,341 0.6 German 33 0.1 4 * 1,103 0.4 110,357 26.1 Hebrew 9 * 5 * 385 0.1 21 * All others 7 * 6 * 1,394 0.4 194 * - - - - - -

- NATIONALITY MARYLAND VIRGINIA NORTH CAROLINA SOUTH CAROLINA - - - - - All Nationalities 208,649 100.0 442,117 100.0 289,181 100.0 140,178 100.0 English 175,265 84.0 375,799 85.0 240,309 83.1 115,480 82.4 Scotch 13,562 6.5 31,391 7.1 32,388 11.2 16,447 11.7 Irish 5,008 2.4 8,842 2.0 6,651 2.3 3,576 2.6 Dutch 209 0.1 884 0.2 578 0.2 219 0.2 French 1,460 0.7 2,653 0.6 868 0.3 1,882 1.8 German 12,310 5.9 21,664 4.9 8,097 2.8 2,343 1.7 Hebrew 626 0.3 1 * 85 * All others 209 0.1 884 0.2 289 0.1 146 0.1 - - - - -



+ -+ -+ NATIONALITY NEW JERSEY DELAWARE GEORGIA + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ All Nationalities 169,954 100.0 46,310 100.0 52,886 100.0 English 98,620 58.0 39,966 86.3 43,948 83.1 Scotch 13,156 7.7 3,473 7.5 5,923 11.2 Irish 12,099 7.1 1,806 3.9 1,216 2.3 Dutch 21,581 12.7 463 1.0 106 0.2 French 3,565 2.1 232 0.5 159 0.3 German 15,678 9.2 185 0.4 1,481 2.8 All others[A] 5,255 3.1 185 0.4 53 0.1 + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+

- NATIONALITY KENTUCKY TENNESSEE - - - All Nationalities 61,133 100.0 31,918 100.0 English 50,802 83.1 26,519 83.1 Scotch 6,847 11.2 3,574 11.2 Irish 1,406 2.3 734 2.8 Dutch 122 0.2 64 0.2 French 183 0.3 96 0.3 German 1,712 2.8 894 2.8 All others[A] 61 0.1 32 0.1 - - - [Note A: Including Hebrews.]

New Jersey presented a more complex problem. Here were Welsh and Swedes, Finns and Danes, as well as French, Dutch, Scotch, Irish, and English. A careful analysis was made of lists of freeholders, and other available sources, in the various counties. The results of these computations in the States from which no schedules of the First Census survive are given in Table B printed on page 28.

The calculations for the entire country in 1790, based upon the census schedules of the States from which reports are still available and upon estimates for the others are summed up in the following manner:

Number and per cent distribution of the white population, 1790:

Nationality Number Per Cent

All Nationalities 3,172,444 100.0 English 2,605,699 82.1 Scotch 221,562 7.0 Irish 61,534 1.9 Dutch 78,959 2.5 French 17,619 0.6 German 176,407 5.6 All others 10,664 0.3

To this method of estimating nationality, it will at once be objected that undue prominence is given to the derivation of the surname, an objection fully understood by those who made the estimate and one which deprives their conclusions of strict scientific verity. In a new country, where the population is in a constant flux and where members of community composed of one race easily migrate to another part of the country and fall in with people of another race, it is very easy to modify the name to suit new circumstances. We know, for instance that Isaac Isaacks of Pennsylvania was not a Jew, that the Van Buskirks of New Jersey were German, not Dutch, that D'Aubigne was early shortened into Dabny and Aulnay into Olney. So also many a Brown had been Braun, and several Blacks had once been only Schwartz. Even the universal Smith had absorbed more than one original Schmidt. These rather exceptional cases, however, probably, do not vitiate the general conclusion here made as to the British and non-British element in the population of America, for the Dutch, the German, the French, and the Swedish cognomens are characteristically different from the British. But the differentiation between Irish, Welsh, Scotch, Scotch-Irish, and English names is infinitely more difficult. The Scotch-Irish particularly have challenged the conclusions reached by the Census Bureau. They claim a much larger proportion of the original bulk of our population than the seven per cent included under the heading Scotch. Henry Jones Ford considers the conclusions as far as they pertain to the Scotch-Irish as "fallacious and untrustworthy." "Many Ulster names," he says,[5] "are also common English names.... Names classed as Scotch or Irish were probably mostly those of Scotch-Irish families.... The probability is that the English proportion should be much smaller and that the Scotch-Irish, who are not included in the Census Bureau's classification, should be much larger than the combined proportions allotted to the Scotch and the Irish."

Whatever may be the actual proportions of these British elements, as revealed by a study of the patronymics of the population at the time of American independence, the fact that the ethnic stock was overwhelmingly British stands out most prominently. We shall never know the exact ratios between the Scotch and the English, the Welsh and the Irish blended in this hardy, self-assertive, and fecund strain. But we do know that the language, the political institutions, and the common law as practiced and established in London had a predominating influence on the destinies of the United States. While the colonists drifted far from the religious establishments of the mother country and found her commercial policies unendurable and her political hauteur galling, they nevertheless retained those legal and institutional forms which remain the foundation of Anglo-Saxon life.

For nearly half a century the American stock remained almost entirely free from foreign admixture. It is estimated that between 1790 and 1820 only 250,000 immigrants came to America, and of these the great majority came after the War of 1812. The white population of the United States in 1820 was 7,862,166. Ten years later it had risen to 10,537,378. This astounding increase was almost wholly due to the fecundity of the native stock. The equitable balance between the sexes, the ease of acquiring a home, the vigorous pioneer environment, and the informal frontier social conditions all encouraged large families. Early marriages were encouraged. Bachelors and unmarried women were rare. Girls were matrons at twenty-five and grand-mothers at forty. Three generations frequently dwelt in one homestead. Families of five persons were the rule; families of eight or ten were common, while families of fourteen or fifteen did not elicit surprise. It was the father's ambition to leave a farm to every son and, if the neighborhood was too densely settled easily to permit this, there was the West—always the West.

This was a race of nation builders. No sooner had he made the Declaration of Independence a reality than the eager pathfinder turned his face towards the setting sun and, prompted by the instincts of conquest, he plunged into the wilderness. Within a few years western New York and Pennsylvania were settled; Kentucky achieved statehood in 1792 and Tennessee four years later, soon to be followed by Mississippi in 1817 and Alabama in 1819. The great Northwest Territory yielded Ohio in 1802, Indiana in 1816, Illinois in 1818, and Michigan in 1837. Beyond the Mississippi the empire of Louisiana doubled the original area of the Republic; Louisiana came into statehood in 1812 and Missouri in 1821. Texas, Oregon, and the fruits of the Mexican War extended its confines to the Western Sea. Incredibly swift as was this march of the Stars, the American pioneer was always in advance.

The pathfinders were virtually all of American stock. The States admitted to the Union prior to 1840 were not only founded by them; they were almost wholly settled by them. When the influx of foreigners began in the thirties, they found all the trails already blazed, the trading posts established, and the first terrors of the wilderness dispelled. They found territories already metamorphosed into States, counties organized, cities established. Schools, churches, and colleges preceded the immigrants who were settlers and not strictly pioneers. The entire territory ceded by the Treaty of 1783 was appropriated in large measure by the American before the advent of the European immigrant.

Washington, with a ring of pride, said in 1796 that the native population of America was "filling the western part of the State of New York and the country on the Ohio with their own surplusage." And James Madison in 1821 wrote that New England, "which has sent out such a continued swarm to other parts of the Union for a number of years, has continued at the same time, as the census shows, to increase in population although it is well known that it has received but comparatively few emigrants from any quarter." Beyond the Mississippi, Louisiana, with its Creole population, was feeling the effect of American migration.

A strange restlessness, of the race rather than of the individual, possessed the American frontiers-man. He moved from one locality to another, but always westward, like some new migratory species that had willingly discarded the instinct for returning. He never took the back trail. A traveler, writing in 1791 from the Ohio Valley, rather superficially observed that "the Americans are lazy and bored, often moving from place to place for the sake of change; in the thirty years that the [western] Pennsylvania neighborhood has been settled, it has changed owners two or three times. The sight of money will tempt any American to sell and off he goes to a new country." Foreign observers of that time constantly allude to this universal and inexplicable restiveness. It was obviously not laziness, for pioneering was a man's task; nor boredom, for the frontier was lonely and neighbors were far apart It was an ever-present dissatisfaction that drove this perpetual conqueror onward—a mysterious impulse, the urge of vague and unfulfilled desires. He went forward with a conquering ambition in his heart; he believed he was the forerunner of a great National Destiny. Crude rhymes of the day voice this feeling:

So shall the nation's pioneer go joyful on his way, To wed Penobscot water to San Francisco Bay. The mighty West shall bless the East, and sea shall answer sea, And mountain unto mountain call, praise God, for we are free!

Again a popular chorus of the pathfinder rang:

Then o'er the hills in legions, boys; Fair freedom's star Points to the sunset regions, boys, Ha, Ha, Ha-ha!

Many a New Englander cleared a farm in western New York, Ohio, or Indiana, before settling finally in Wisconsin, Iowa, or Minnesota, whence he sent his sons on to Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and California. From Tennessee and Kentucky large numbers moved into southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and across the river into Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Abraham Lincoln's father was one of these pioneers and tried his luck in various localities in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

Nor had the movement ceased after a century of continental exploitation. Hamlin Garland in his notable autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border, brings down to our own day the evidence of this native American restiveness. His parents came of New England extraction, but settled in Wisconsin. His father, after his return from the Civil War, moved to Iowa, where he was scarcely ensconced before an opportunity came to sell his place. The family then pushed out farther upon the Iowa prairie, where they "broke" a farm from the primeval turf. Again, in his ripe age, the father found the urge revive and under this impulse he moved again, this time to Dakota, where he remained long enough to transform a section of prairie into wheat land before he took the final stage of his western journeyings to southern California. Here he was surrounded by neighbors whose migration had been not unlike his own, and to the same sunny region another relative found his way "by way of a long trail through Iowa, Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and North California."

When the last frontier had vanished, it was seen that men of this American stock had penetrated into every valley, traversed every plain, and explored every mountain pass from Atlantic to Pacific. They organized every territory and prepared each for statehood. It was the enterprise of these sons and grandsons and great-grandsons of the Revolutionary Americans, obeying the restless impulse of a pioneer race, who spread a network of settlements and outposts over the entire land and prepared it for the immigrant invasion from Europe. Owing to this influx of foreigners, the American stock has become mingled with other strains, especially those from Great Britain.

The Census Bureau estimated that in 1900 there were living in the United States approximately thirty-five million white people who were descended from persons enumerated in 1790. If these thirty-five million were distributed by nationality according to the proportions estimated for 1790, the result would appear as follows:

English 28,735,000 Scotch 2,450,000 Irish 665,000 Dutch 875,000 French 210,000 German 1,960,000 All others 105,000

In 1900 there were also thirty-two million descendants of white persons who had come to the United States after the First Census, yet of these over twenty million were either foreign born or the children of persons born abroad. If this ratio of increase remained the same, the American stock would apparently maintain its own, even in the midst of twentieth century immigration. But the birth rate of the foreign stock, especially among the recent comers, is much higher than of the native American stock. Conditions have so changed that, according to the Census, the American people "have concluded that they are only about one-half as well able to rear children—at any rate, without personal sacrifice—under the conditions prevailing in 1900 as their predecessors proved themselves to be under the conditions which prevailed in 1790."

The difficulty of ascertaining ethnic influences increases immeasurably when we pass from the physical to the mental realm. There are subtle interplays of delicate forces and reactions from environment which no one can measure. Leadership nevertheless is the gift of but few races; and in the United States eminence in business, in statecraft, in letters and learning can with singular directness be traced in a preponderating proportion to this American stock.

In 1891 Henry Cabot Lodge published an essay on The Distribution of Ability in the United States,[6] based upon the 15,514 names in Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (1887). He "treated as immigrants all persons who came to the United States after the adoption of the Constitution," and on this division he found 14,243 "Americans" and 1271 "immigrants" distributed racially as follows:


English 10,376 English 345 Scotch-Irish 1439 German 245 German 659 Irish 200 Huguenot 589 Scotch 151 Scotch 436 Scotch-Irish 88 Dutch 336 French 63 Welsh 159 Canadian and Irish 109 British Colonial 60 French 85 Scandinavian 18 Scandinavian 31 Welsh 16 Spanish 7 Belgian 15 Italian 7 Swiss 15 Swiss 5 Dutch 14 Greek 3 Polish 13 Russian 1 Hungarian 11 Polish 1 Italian 10 Greek 3 Russian 2 Spanish 1 Portuguese 1

Of the total number of individuals selected, a large number were chosen by the editors as being of enough importance to entitle them to a small portrait in the text, and fifty-eight persons who had achieved some unusual distinction were accorded a full-page portrait. These, however, represented achievement rather than ability, for they included the Presidents of the United States and other political personages. Of the total number selected for the distinction of a small portrait, 1200 were "Americans" and 71 "immigrants." Of the 1200 "Americans," 856 were of English extraction, 129 Scotch-Irish, 57 Huguenot, 45 Scotch, 39 Dutch, 37 German, 15 Welsh, 13 Irish, 6 French, and one each of Scandinavian, Spanish, and Swiss. Of the "immigrants" 15 were English, 14 German, 11 Irish, 8 Scotch-Irish, 7 Scotch, 6 Swiss, 4 French, 3 from Spanish Provinces, and 1 each from Scandinavia, Belgium, and Poland. All the 58 whose full-page portraits are presumed to be an index to unusual prominence were found to be "Americans" and by race extraction they were distributed as follows: English 41, Scotch-Irish 8, Scotch 4, Welsh 2, Dutch, Spanish, and Irish 1 each.

Whatever may be said in objection to this index of ability (and Senator Lodge effectively answered his critics in a note appended to this study in his volume of Historical and Political Essays), it is apparent that a large preponderance of leadership in American politics, business, art, literature, and learning has been derived from the American stock. This is a perfectly natural result. The founders of the Republic themselves were in large degree the children of the pick of Europe. The Puritan, Cavalier, Quaker, Scotch-Irish, Huguenot, and Dutch pioneers were not ordinary folk in any sense of the term. They were, in a measure, a race of heroes. Their sons and grandsons inherited their vigor and their striving. It is not at all singular that every President of the United States and every Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court has come from this stock, nor that the vast majority of Cabinet members, of distinguished Senators, of Speakers of the House, and of men of note in the House of Representatives trace back to it their lineage in whole or in part. After the middle of the nineteenth century the immigrant vote began to make itself felt, and politicians contended for the "Irish vote" and the "German vote" and later for the "Italian vote" the "Jewish vote," and the "Norwegian vote." Members of the immigrant races began to appear in Washington, and the new infusion of blood made itself felt in the political life of the country.

But, if material were available for a comprehensive analysis of American leadership in life and thought today, a larger number of names of non-native origin would no doubt appear than was disclosed in 1891 by Senator Lodge's analysis. All the learned professions, for instance, and many lines of business are finding their numbers swelled by persons of foreign parentage. This change is to be expected. The influence of environment, especially of free education and unfettered opportunity, is calling forth the talents of the children of the immigrants. The number of descendants from the American stock yearly becomes relatively less; intermarriage with the children of the foreign born is increasingly frequent. Profound changes have taken place since the American pioneers pushed their way across the Alleghanies; changes infinitely more profound have taken place even since the dawn of the twentieth century and have put to the test of Destiny the institutions which are called "American."

Nevertheless in a large sense every great tradition of the original American stock lives today: the tradition of free movement, of initiative and enterprise; the tradition of individual responsibility; the primary traditions of democracy and liberty. These give a virile present meaning to the name American. A noted French journalist received this impression of a group of soldiers who in 1918 were bivouacked in his country: "I saw yesterday an American unit in which men of very varied origin abounded—French, Polish, Czech, German, English, Canadian—such their names and other facts revealed them. Nevertheless, all were of the same or similar type, a fact due apparently to the combined influences of sun, air, primary education, and environment. And one was not long in discovering that the intelligence of each and all had manifestly a wider outlook than that of the man of single racial lineage and of one country." And these men were Americans.


[Footnote 3: Among the names which have quite vanished were those pertaining to household matters, such as Hash, Butter, Waffle, Booze, Frill, Shirt, Lace; or describing human characteristics, as Booby, Dunce, Sallow, Daft, Lazy, Measley, Rude; or parts of the body and its ailments, as Hips, Bones, Chin, Glands, Gout, Corns, Physic; or representing property, as Shingle, Gutters, Pump, Milkhouse, Desk, Mug, Auction, Hose, Tallow. Nature also was drawn upon for a large number of names. The colors Black, Brown, and Gray survive, but Lavender, Tan, and Scarlet have gone out of vogue. Bogs, Hazelgrove, Woodyfield, Oysterbanks, Chestnut, Pinks, Ragbush, Winterberry, Peach, Walnut, Freeze, Coldair, Bear, Tails, Chick, Bantam, Stork, Worm, Snake, and Maggot indicate the simple origin of many names. There were many strange combinations of Christian names and surnames: Peter Wentup, Christy Forgot, Unity Bachelor, Booze Still, Cutlip Hoof, and Wanton Bump left little to the imagination.]

[Footnote 4: These tables and those on the pages immediately following are taken from A Century of Population Growth, issued by the United States Census Bureau in 1908.]

[Footnote 5: The Scotch-Irish in America pp. 219-20.]

[Footnote 6: See The Century Magazine, September, 1891, and Lodge's Historical and Political Essays, 1892.]



Not many years ago a traveler was lured into a London music hall by the sign: Spirited American Singing and Dancing. He saw on the stage a sextette of black-faced comedians, singing darky ragtime to the accompaniment of banjo and bones, dancing the clog and the cakewalk, and reciting negro stories with the familiar accent and smile, all to the evident delight of the audience. The man in the seat next to him remarked, "These Americans are really lively." Not only in England, but on the continent, the negro's melodies, his dialect, and his banjo, have always been identified with America. Even Americans do not at once think of the negro as a foreigner, so accustomed have they become to his presence, to his quaint mythology, his soft accent, and his genial and accommodating nature. He was to be found in every colony before the Revolution; he was an integral part of American economic life long before the great Irish and German immigrations, and, while in the mass he is confined to the South, he is found today in every State in the Union.

The negro, however, is racially the most distinctly foreign element in America. He belongs to a period of biological and racial evolution far removed from that of the white man. His habitat is the continent of the elephant and the lion, the mango and the palm, while that of the race into whose state he has been thrust is the continent of the horse and the cow, of wheat and the oak.

There is a touch of the dramatic in every phase of the negro's contact with America: his unwilling coming, his forcible detention, his final submission, his emancipation, his struggle to adapt himself to freedom, his futile competition with a superior economic order. Every step from the kidnaping, through "the voiceless woe of servitude" and the attempted redemption of his race, has been accompanied by tragedy. How else could it be when peoples of two such diverse epochs in racial evolution meet?

His coming was almost contemporaneous with that of the white man. "American slavery," says Channing,[7] "began with Columbus, possibly because he was the first European who had a chance to introduce it: and negroes were brought to the New World at the suggestion of the saintly Las Casas to alleviate the lot of the unhappy and fast disappearing red man" They were first employed as body servants and were used extensively in the West Indies before their common use in the colonies on the continent. In the first plantations of Virginia a few of them were found as laborers. In 1619 what was probably the first slave ship on that coast—it was euphemistically called a "Dutch man-of-war"—landed its human cargo in Virginia. From this time onward the numbers of African slaves steadily increased. Bancroft estimated their number at 59,000 in 1714, 78,000 in 1727, and 263,000 in 1754. The census of 1790 recorded 697,624 slaves in the United States. This almost incredible increase was not due alone to the fecundity of the negro. It was due, in large measure, to the unceasing slave trade.

It is difficult to imagine more severe ordeals than the negroes endured in the day of the slave trade. Their captors in the jungles of Africa—usually neighboring tribesmen in whom the instinct for capture, enslavement, and destruction was untamed—soon learned that the aged, the inferior, the defective, were not wanted by the trader. These were usually slaughtered. Then followed for the less fortunate the long and agonizing march to the seaboard. Every one not robust enough to endure the arduous journey was allowed to perish by the way. On the coast, the agent of the trader or the middle-man awaited the captive. He was an expert at detecting those evidences of weakness and disease which had eluded the eye of the captor or the rigor of the march. "An African factor of fair repute," said a slave captain,[8] "is ever careful to select his human cargo with consummate prudence, so as not only to supply his employers with athletic laborers, but to avoid any taint of disease." But the severest test of all was the hideous "middle passage" which remained to every imported slave a nightmare to the day of his death. The unhappy captives were crowded into dark, unventilated holds and were fed scantily on food which was strange to their lips; they were unable to understand the tongue of their masters and often unable to understand the dialects of their companions in misfortune; they were depressed with their helplessness on the limitless sea, and their childish superstitions were fed by a thousand new terrors and emotions. It was small wonder that, when disease began its ravages in the shipload of these kidnaped beings, "the mortality of thirty per cent was not rare." That this was primarily a physical selection which made no allowance for mental aptitudes did not greatly diminish in the eyes of the master the slave's utility. The new continent needed muscle power; and so tens of thousands of able-bodied Africans were landed on American soil, alien to everything they found there.

These slaves were kidnaped from many tribes. "In our negro population," says Tillinghast, "as it came from the Western Coast of Africa, there were Wolofs and Fulans, tall, well-built, and very black, hailing from Senegambia and its vicinity; there were hundreds of thousands from the Slave Coast—Tshis, Ewes, and Yorubans, including Dahomians; and mingled with all these Soudanese negroes proper were occasional contributions of mixed stock, from the north and northeast, having an infusion of Moorish blood. There were other thousands from Lower Guinea, belonging to Bantu stock, not so black in color as the Soudanese, and thought by some to be slightly superior to them."[9] No historian has recorded these tribal differences. The new environment, so strange, so ruthless, swallowed them; and, in the welter of their toil, the black men became so intermingled that all tribal distinctions soon vanished. Here and there, however, a careful observer may still find among them a man of superior mien or a woman of haughty demeanor denoting perhaps an ancestral prince or princess who once exercised authority over some African jungle village.

Slavery was soon a recognized institution in every American colony. By 1665 every colony had its slave code. In Virginia the laws became increasingly strict until the dominion of the master over his slaves was virtually absolute. In South Carolina an insurrection of slaves in 1739, which cost the lives of twenty-one whites and forty-four blacks, led to very drastic laws. Of the Northern colonies, New York seems to have been most in fear of a black peril. In 1700 there were about six thousand slaves in this colony, chiefly in the city, where there were also many free negroes, and on the large estates along the Hudson. Twice the white people of the city for reasons that have not been preserved, believing that slave insurrections were imminent, resorted to extreme and brutal measures. In 1712 they burned to death two negroes, hanged in chains a third, and condemned a fourth to be broken on the wheel. In 1741 they went so far as to burn fourteen negroes, hang eighteen, and transport seventy-one.

In New England where their numbers were relatively small and the laws were less severe, the negroes were employed chiefly in domestic service. In Quaker Pennsylvania there were many slaves, the proprietor himself being a slave owner. Ten years after the founding of Philadelphia, the authorities ordered the constables to arrest all negroes found "gadding about" on Sunday without proper permission. They were to remain in jail until Monday, receiving in lieu of meat or drink thirty-nine lashes on the bare back.

Protests against slavery were not uncommon during the colonial period; and before the Revolution was accomplished several of the States had emancipated their slaves. Vermont led the way in 1777; the Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in the Northwest Territory; and by 1804 all the Northern States had provided that their blacks should be set free. The opinion prevailed that slavery was on the road to gradual extinction. In the Federal Convention of 1787 this belief was crystallized into the clause making possible the prohibition of the slave trade after the year 1808. Mutual benefit organizations among the negroes, both slave and free, appeared in many States, North and South. Negro congregations were organized. The number of free negroes increased rapidly, and in the Northern States they acquired such civil rights as industry, thrift, and integrity commanded. Here and there colored persons of unusual gifts distinguished themselves in various callings and were even occasionally entertained in white households.

The industrial revolution in England, with its spinning jenny and power loom, indirectly influenced the position of the negro in America. The new machinery had an insatiable maw for cotton. It could turn such enormous quantities of raw fiber into cloth that the old rate of producing cotton was entirely inadequate. New areas had to be placed under cultivation. The South, where soil and climate combined to make an ideal cotton land, came into its own. And when Eli Whitney's gin was perfected, cotton was crowned king. Statistics tell the story: the South produced about 8000 bales of cotton in 1790; 650,000 bales in 1820; 2,469,093 bales in 1850; 5,387,052 bales in 1860.[10] This vast increase in production called for human muscle which apparently only the negro could supply.

Once it was shown that slavery paid, its status became fixed as adamant. The South forthwith ceased weakly to apologize for it, as it had formerly done, and began to defend it, at first with some hesitation, then with boldness, and finally with vehement aggressiveness. It was economically necessary; it was morally right; it was the peculiar Southern domestic institution; and, above all, it paid. On every basis of its defense, the cotton kingdom would brook no interference from any other section of the country. So there was formed a race feudality in the Republic, rooted in profits, protected by the political power of the slave lords, and enveloped in a spirit of defiance and bitterness which reacted without mercy upon its victims. Tighter and tighter were drawn the coils of restrictions around the enslaved race. The mind and the soul as well as the body were placed under domination. They might marry to breed but not to make homes. Such charity and kindness as they experienced, they received entirely from individual humane masters; society treated them merely as chattels.

Attempted insurrections, such as that in South Carolina in 1822 and that in Virginia in 1831 in which many whites and blacks were killed, only produced harsher laws and more cruel punishments, until finally the slave became convinced that his only salvation lay in running away. The North Star was his beacon light of freedom. A few thousand made their way southward through the chain of swamps that skirt the Atlantic coast and mingled with the Indians in Florida. Tens of thousands made their way northward along well recognized routes to the free States and to Canada: the Appalachian ranges with their far-spreading spurs furnished the friendliest of these highways; the Mississippi Valley with its marshlands, forests, and swamps provided less secure hiding places; and the Cumberland Mountains, well supplied with limestone caves, offered a third pathway. At the northern end of these routes the "Underground Railway"[11] received the fugitives. From the Cumberlands, leading through the heart of Tennessee and Kentucky, this benevolent transfer stretched through Ohio and Indiana to Canada; from southern Illinois it led northward through Wisconsin; and from the Appalachian route mysterious byways led through New York and New England.

How many thus escaped cannot be reckoned, but it is known that the number of free negroes in the North increased so rapidly that laws discriminating against them were passed in many States. Nowhere did the negro enjoy all the rights that the white man had. In some States the free negroes were so restricted in settling as to be virtually prohibited; in others they were disfranchised; in others they were denied the right of jury duty or of testifying in court. But in spite of this discrimination on the part of the law, a great sympathy for the runaway slave spread among the people, and the fugitive carried into the heart of the North the venom of the institution of which he was the unhappy victim.

Meanwhile the slave trade responded promptly to the lure of gain which the increased demand for cotton held out. The law of 1807 prohibiting the importation of slaves had, from the date of its enactment, been virtually a dead letter. Messages of Presidents, complaints of government attorneys, of collectors and agents called attention to the continuous violation of the law; and its nullity was a matter of common knowledge. When the market price of a slave rose to $325 in 1840 and to $500 after 1850, the increase in profits made slave piracy a rather respectable business carried on by American citizens in American built ships flying the American flag and paying high returns on New York and New England capital. Owing to this steady importation there was a constant intermingling of raw stock from the jungles with the negroes who had been slaves in America for several generations.

In 1860 there were 4,441,830 negroes in the United States, of whom only 488,070 were free. About thirteen per cent of the total number were mulattoes. Among the four million slaves were men and women of every gradation of experience with civilization, from those who had just disembarked from slave ships to those whose ancestry could be traced to the earliest days of the colonies. It was not, therefore, a strictly homogeneous people upon whom were suddenly and dramatically laid the burdens and responsibilities of the freedman. Among the emancipated blacks were not a few in whom there still throbbed vigorously the savage life they had but recently left behind and who could not yet speak intelligible English. Though there were many who were skilled in household arts and in the useful customary handicrafts, large numbers were acquainted only with the simplest toil of the open fields. There were a few free blacks who possessed property, in some instances to the value of many thousands of dollars, but the great bulk were wholly inexperienced in the responsibilities of ownership. There were some who had mastered the rudiments of learning and here and there was to be found a gifted mind, but ninety per cent of the negroes were unacquainted with letters and were strangers to even the most rudimentary learning. Their religion was a picturesque blend of Christian precepts and Voodoo customs.

The Freedmen's Bureau, authorized by Congress early in 1865, had as its functions to aid the negro to develop self-control and self-reliance, to help the freedman with his new wage contracts, to befriend him when he appeared in court, and to provide for him schools and hospitals. It was a simple, slender reed for the race to lean upon until it learned to walk. But it interfered with the orthodox opinion of that day regarding individual independence and was limited to the period of war and one year thereafter. It was eyed with suspicion and was regarded with criticism by both the keepers of the laissez faire faith and the former slave owners. It established a number of schools and made a modest beginning in peasant proprietorship and free labor.[12]

When this temporary guide was withdrawn, private organizations to some extent took its place. The American Missionary Association continued the educational work, and volunteers shouldered other benevolences. But no power and no organization could take the place of the national authority. If the Freedmen's Bureau could have been stripped of those evil-intentioned persons who used it for private gain, been so organized as to enlist the support of the Southern white population, and been continued until a new generation of blacks were prepared for civil life, the colossal blunders and criminal misfits of that bitter period of transition might have been avoided. But political opportunism spurned comprehensive plans, and the negro suddenly found himself forced into social, political, and economic competition with the white man.

The social and political struggle that followed was short-lived. There were a few desperate years under the domination of the carpetbagger and the Ku Klux Klan, a period of physical coercion and intimidation. Within a decade the negro vote was uncast or uncounted, and the grandfather clauses soon completed the political mastery of the former slave owner. A strict interpretation of the Civil Rights Act denied the application of the equality clause of the Constitution to social equality, and the social as well as the political separation of the two stocks was also accomplished. "Jim Crow," cars, separate accommodations in depots and theaters, separate schools, separate churches, attempted segregations in cities—these are all symbolic of two separate races forcibly united by constitutional amendments.

But the economic struggle continued, for the black man, even if politically emasculated and socially isolated, had somehow to earn a living. In their first reaction of anger and chagrin, some of the whites here and there made attempts to reduce freedmen to their former servitude, but their efforts were effectually checked by the Fifteenth Amendment. An ingenious peonage, however, was created by means of the criminal law. Strict statutes were passed by States on guardianship, vagrancy, and petty crimes. It was not difficult to bring charges under these statutes, and the heavy penalties attached, together with the wide discretion permitted to judge and jury, made it easy to subject the culprit to virtual serfdom for a term of years. He would be leased to some contractor, who would pay for his keep and would profit by his toil. Whatever justification there may have been for these statutes, the convict lease system soon fell into disrepute, and it has been generally abandoned.

It was upon the land that the freedman naturally sought his economic salvation. He was experienced in cotton growing. But he had neither acres nor capital. These he had to find and turn to his own uses ere he could really be economically free. So he began as a farm laborer, passed through various stages of tenantry, and finally graduated into land ownership. One finds today examples of every stage of this evolution.[13] There is first the farm laborer, receiving at the end of the year a fixed wage. He is often supplied with house and garden and usually with food and clothing. There are many variations of this labor contract. The "cropper" is barely a step advanced above the laborer, for he, too, furnishes nothing but labor, while the landlord supplies house, tools, live stock, and seed. His wage, however, is paid not in cash but in a stipulated share of the crop. From this share he must pay for the supplies received and interest thereon. This method, however, has proved to be a mutually unsatisfactory arrangement and is usually limited to hard pressed owners of poor land.

The larger number of the negro farmers are tenants on shares or metayers. They work the land on their own responsibility, and this degree of independence appeals to them. They pay a stipulated portion of the crop as rent. If they possess some capital and the rental is fair, this arrangement proves satisfactory. But as very few negro metayers possess the needed capital, they resort to a system of crop-lienage under which a local retail merchant advances the necessary supplies and obtains a mortgage on the prospective crop. Many negro farmers, however, have achieved the independence of cash renters, assuming complete control of their crops and the disposition of their time. And finally, 241,000 negro farmers are landowners.[14] By 1910 nearly 900,000 negroes had achieved some degree of rural economic stability.

The negro has not been so fortunate in his attempts to make a place for himself in the industrial world. The drift to the cities began soon after emancipation. During the first decade, the dissatisfaction with the landlordism which then prevailed, seconded by the demand for unskilled labor in the rapidly growing cities, drew the negroes from the land in such considerable numbers that the landowners were induced to make more liberal terms to keep the laborers on their farms. While there has been a large increase in the number of negroes engaged in agriculture, there has at the same time been a very marked current from the smaller communities to the new industrial cities of the South and to some of the manufacturing centers of the North. In recent years there have been wholesale importations of negro laborers into many Northern cities and towns, sometimes as strike breakers but more frequently to supply the urgent demand for unskilled labor. Many of the smaller manufacturing towns of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana are accumulating a negro population.

Very few of these industrial negroes, however, are skilled workers. They toil rather as ordinary day laborers, porters, stevedores, teamsters, and domestics. There has been a great deal written of the decline of the negro artisan. Walter F. Willcox, the eminent statistician, after a careful study of the facts concludes that economically "the negro as a race is losing ground, is being confined more and more to the inferior and less remunerative occupations, and is not sharing proportionately to his numbers in the prosperity of the country as a whole or of the section in which he mainly lives."

It appears, therefore, that the pathway of emancipation has not led the negro out of the ranks of humble toil and into racial equality. In order to equip him more effectively for a place in the world, industrial schools have been established, among which the most noted is the Tuskegee Institute. Its founder, Booker T. Washington, advised his fellow negroes to yield quietly to the political and social distinctions raised against them and to perfect themselves in handicrafts and the mechanic arts, in the faith that civil rights would ultimately follow economic power and recognized industrial capacity. His teaching received the almost unanimous approval of both North and South. But opinion among his own people was divided, and in 1905 the "Niagara Movement" was launched, followed five years later by the organizing of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This organization advised a more aggressive attitude towards race distinctions, outspokenly advocated race equality, demanded the negro's rights, and maintained a restless propaganda. These champions of the race possibilities of the negro point to the material advance made since slavery; to the 500,000 houses and the 221,000 farms owned by them; their 22,000 small retail businesses and their 40 banks; to the 40,000 churches with nearly 4,000,000 members; to the 200 colleges and secondary schools maintained for negroes and largely supported by them; to their 100 old people's homes, 30 hospitals, 300 periodicals; to the 6000 physicians, dentists, and nurses; the 30,000 teachers, the 18,000 clergymen. They point to the beacon lights of their genius: Frederick Douglass, statesman; J.C. Price, orator; Booker T. Washington, educator; W.E.B. DuBois, scholar; Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet; Charles W. Chestnutt, novelist. And they compare this record of 50 years' achievement with the preceding 245 years of slavery.

This, however, is only one side of the shield. There is another side, nowhere better illustrated, perhaps, than in the neglected negro gardens of the South. Near every negro hut is a garden patch large enough to supply the family with vegetables for the entire year, but it usually is neglected. "If they have any garden at all," says a negro critic from Tuskegee, "it is apt to be choked with weeds and other noxious growths. With every advantage of soil and climate and with a steady market if they live near any city or large town, few of the colored farmers get any benefit from this, one of the most profitable of all industries." In marked contrast to these wild and unkempt patches are the gardens of the Italians who have recently invaded portions of the South and whose garden patches are almost miraculously productive. And this invasion brings a real threat to the future of the negro. His happy-go-lucky ways, his easy philosophy of life, the remarkable ease with which he severs home ties and shifts from place to place, his indifference to property obligations—these negative defects in his character may easily lead to his economic doom if the vigorous peasantry of Italy and other lands are brought into competition with him.


[Footnote 7: History of the United States, vol. I, p. 116.]

[Footnote 8: Captain Canot: or Twenty Years in a Slaver, by Brantz Mayer. p. 94 ff.]

[Footnote 9: The Negro in Africa and America, p. 113.]

[Footnote 10: Coman, Industrial History of the United States, p. 238. Bogart gives the figures as 1,976,000 bales in 1840, and 4,675,000 bales in 1860. Economic History of the United States, p. 256.]

[Footnote 11: See The Anti-Slavery Crusade, by Jesse Macy (in The Chronicles of America), Chapter VIII.]

[Footnote 12: See The Sequel of Appomattox, by Walter L. Fleming (in The Chronicles of America), Chapter IV.]

[Footnote 13: See The New South by Holland Thompson (in The Chronicles of America), Chapters IV and VII.]

[Footnote 14: Negroes in the United States, Census Bulletin No. 129, p. 37.]



America has long been a gigantic Utopia. To every immigrant since the founding of Jamestown this coast has gleamed upon the horizon as a Promised Land. America, too, has provided convenient plots of ground, as laboratories for all sorts of vagaries, where, unhampered by restrictions and unannoyed by inquisitive neighbors, enthusiastic dreamers could attempt to reconstruct society. Whenever an eccentric in Europe conceived a social panacea no matter how absurd, he said, "Let's go to America and try it out." There were so many of these enterprises that their exact number is unknown. Many of them perished in so brief a time that no friendly chronicler has even saved their names from oblivion. But others lived, some for a year, some for a decade, and few for more than a generation. They are of interest today not only because they brought a considerable number of foreigners to America, but also because in their history may be observed many of the principles of communism, or socialism, at work under favorable conditions. While the theory of Marxian socialism differs in certain details from these communistic experiments, the foreign-made nostrums so brazenly proclaimed today wherever malcontents are gathered together is in essence nothing new in America. Communism was tried and found wanting by the Pilgrim Fathers; since then it has been tried and found wanting over and over again. Some of the communistic colonies, it will appear, waxed fat out of the resources of their lands; but, in the end, even those which were most fortunate and successful withered away, and their remnants were absorbed by the great competitive life that surrounded them.

There were two general types of these communities, the sectarian and the economic. Frequently they combined a peculiar religious belief with the economic practice of having everything in common. The sectarians professed to be neither proselyters nor propagandists but religious devotees, accepting communism as a physical advantage as well as a spiritual balm, and seeking in seclusion and quiet merely to save their own souls.

The majority of the religious communists came from Germany—the home, also, of Marxian socialism in later years—where persecution was the lot of innumerable little sects which budded after the Reformation. They came usually as whole colonies, bringing both leaders and membership with them.[15] Probably the earliest to arrive in America were the Labadists, who denied the doctrine of original sin, discarded the Sabbath, and held strict views of marriage. In 1684, under the leadership of Peter Sluyter or Schluter (an assumed name, his original name being Vorstmann), some of these Labadists settled on the Bohemia River in Delaware. They were sent out from the mother colony in West Friesland to select a site for the entire body, but it does not appear that any others migrated, for within fifteen years the American colony was reduced to eight men. Sluyter evidently had considerable business capacity, for he became a wealthy tobacco planter and slave trader.

In 1693 Johann Jacob Zimmermann, a distinguished mathematician and astronomer and the founder of an order of mystics called Pietists, started for America, to await the coming of the millennium, which his calculations placed in the autumn of 1694. But the fate of common mortals overtook the unfortunate leader and he died just as he was ready to sail from Rotterdam. About forty members of his brotherhood settled in the forests on the heights near Germantown, Pennsylvania, and, under the guidance of Johann Kelpius, achieved a unique influence over the German peasantry in that vicinity. The members of the brotherhood made themselves useful as teachers and in various handicrafts. They were especially in demand among the superstitious for their skill in casting horoscopes, using divining rods, and carving potent amulets. Their mysterious astronomical tower on the heights of the Wissahickon was the Mecca of the curious and the distressed. To the gentle Kelpius was ascribed the power of healing, but he was himself the victim of consumption. The brotherhood did not long survive his death in 1708 or 1709. Their astrological instruments may be seen in the collections of the Pennsylvania Philosophical Society.

The first group of Dunkards (a name derived from their method of baptism, eintunken, to immerse) settled in Pennsylvania in 1719. A few years later they were joined by Conrad Beissel (Beizel or Peysel). This man had come to America to unite with the Pietist group in Germantown, but, as Kelpius was dead and his followers dispersed he joined the Dunkards. His desires for a monastic life drove him into solitary meditation—tradition says he took shelter in a cave—where he came to the conviction that the seventh day of the week should be observed as the day of rest. This conclusion led to friction with the Dunkards; and as a result, with three men and two women, Beissel founded in 1728 on the Cocalico River, the cloister of Ephrata. From this arose the first communistic Eden successfully established in America and one of the few to survive to the present century. Though in 1900 the community numbered only seventeen members, in its prime while Beissel was yet alive it sheltered three hundred, owned a prosperous paper mill, a grist mill, an oil mill, a fulling mill, a printing press, a schoolhouse, dwellings for the married members, and large dormitories for the celibates. The meeting-house was built entirely without metal, following literally the precedent of Solomon, who built his temple "so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building." Wooden pegs took the place of nails, and the laths were fastened laboriously into grooves. Averse to riches, Beissel's people refused gifts from William Penn, King George III, and other prominent personages. The pious Beissel was a very capable leader, with a passion for music and an ardor for simplicity. He instituted among the unmarried members of the community a celibate order embracing both sexes, and he reduced the communal life of both the religious and secular members to a routine of piety and labor. The society was known, even in England, for the excellence of its paper, for the good workmanship of its printing press, and especially for the quality of its music, which was composed largely by Beissel. His chorals were among the first composed and sung in America. His school, too, was of such quality that it drew pupils from Baltimore and Philadelphia. After his death in 1786, in his seventy-second year, his successor tried for twenty-eight years to maintain the discipline and distinction of the order. It was eventually deemed prudent to incorporate the society under the laws of the State and to entrust its management to a board of trustees, and the cloistered life of the community became a memory.

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